The message is being delivered as nearly every faction in Egypt expresses anger with the U.S. response to the country’s constitutional crisis, which is stretching into a second month. Egypt’s powerful army chief has accused Washington of abandoning the country.
“You left the Egyptians. You turned your back on the Egyptians, and they won’t forget that,” Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi said in a Washington Post interview published over the weekend. “Now you want to continue turning your backs on Egyptians?”
The White House has refused to call the military’s ouster of Morsi a coup, because doing so would automatically bar the United States from dispensing more than $1 billion in annual aid to Egypt. The money represents much of the leverage that Washington holds over a key Middle East partner that was the first Arab state to make peace with Israel.
At the same time, weeks of muddled messages have left Egypt’s interim government angry and dissatisfied.
U.S. officials said they are urging calm among all factions in Egypt. “We all are encouraging the Egyptians to be part of an inclusive process that includes the Muslim Brotherhood,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Monday.
Two Republican senators who are frequent critics of the Obama administration on foreign policy — John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) — have traveled to Egypt to reinforce the U.S. view that it must move more quickly and clearly toward a new elected government.
Burns, meanwhile, has extended his stay in Cairo after arriving Friday. U.S. officials said Egypt’s government cooperated in arranging his meeting with Khairat el-Shater, the jailed deputy chief of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The State Department would not comment on whether Burns proposed a bargain to release jailed Brotherhood figures in exchange for an end to street protests and encampments by the movement’s supporters. There are no plans for Burns to see Morsi in jail, Harf said, but she brushed aside suggestions that by not seeking a meeting with Morsi the United States is making its preference clear.
“We’re not taking a side. We’re not taking a party. And he’s making that point to everybody,” she said.
More privately, U.S. diplomats are underscoring the notion that the United States has moved on and that Morsi’s supporters should, too, according to officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomacy.